romance

Hello, handsome.

Author’s Note: The following narrative is meant as a personal examination of my neuroses. Please see end of blog for disclaimers.

A few months ago, the company I work for worked with a male model/actor on a mini-campaign. As the de facto talking head for brand, I had to interact with this person a few times. Each time, I was extremely on edge, twitchy, and uncomfortable.

It wasn’t the guy’s fault. He was the quintessential showbiz “starlet” (is that a word we use for guys?), which is to say flirty with all and sundry, but in a way that felt kind of expected, considering his “image” and “newcomer” status. I guess it’s a little bit like how, in their rookie years, male KPop idols are expected to do cringey fanservice.

Basically, dude was just doing his job. And I knew that. I have nothing bad to say about how he acted at all. Still, in the one long video we appeared in together, you can see me slowly inch away from him, physically incapable of hiding how tense and uncomfortable I am.

In that video, I am dressed in a loose sweater, boot-cut jeans, and black Chelsea boots. My shoulder-length hair–freshly dyed blue–is disappeared under a beanie, the visible bangs styled in a swoopy part all KPop boy group stans recognize. If you follow me on Instagram, you know this look all too well. It’s what I call my “guy” mode, my “handsome” self.

With a name like “Frankie,” I guess some androgyny was inevitable. My wide shoulders, curve-less frame, square jaw, and low voice (no Elizabeth Holmes acts here) mean that I naturally telegraph a degree of masculinity. And I’m comfortable with that, embrace it even. I like that my looks are a little ambiguous, that the clothes I wear to feel attractive are more Harry Styles than Taylor Swift. I like being “handsome-pretty,” as a college friend once called me; wholeheartedly enjoy challenging the idea that there is one way to be feminine.

In short, when I’m leaning into pretty boy, it’s because doing so makes me feel like a pretty girl.

…but I’ll admit that handsome, sometimes, becomes less about sexy and more about self-preservation.

I bought the outfit I wore in that video a week before the shoot. I bought it because it made my shoulders look big and erased my curves. That day, too, I wore my tightest sports bra, one that flattened my A-cup into nonexistence. I wanted, not just to look like a boy, but to feel like one, because in that moment my brain telegraphed that as feeling safe.

I made it very clear earlier that I knew this male model/actor had to be friendly, flirty, downright rakish even (we should bring that word back), for his job. He turned the charm on everyone, and I knew it was because he felt he had to in order to secure more work. Such is showbusiness.

I knew that, but I still turned myself into a boy so I could escape that charm as much as possible.

Sometimes, I turn into a handsome boy for fun. A lot of the time, actually. But, on rare occasions, I turn into a handsome boy to feel safe. To escape charm and charmers.

I started dressing like a guy in earnest as a university student, coincidentally also the last time of my life I remember being super “girly” on the regular (other than a brief IU phase in my mid-20s, when I fell down the KPop rabbit hole). From my five-inch stiletto boots to my sock-curled hair, to my bright red lipstick smile, I worked to be pretty. And I was.

At least, that’s what a somewhat handsome boy told me. He said I was pretty. Or, well, beautiful. He was charismatic, well-spoken, playful and flirty and charming the way a male model/actor has to be, except that he didn’t have to be this way. It came naturally. He wanted to be this way and enjoyed it. And I enjoyed being around him. I had a crush. And I preened and prettified myself in response.

My efforts did not go completely unnoticed, I guess. Without going into a ton of details, we had a few verbal and physical exchanges that only just managed a PG rating (because, well, purity ring and personal convictions). I fell for him, hard, drawn in by his charm and easy laugh and the way he said, “You look really good today.” every so often. How he’d grab at my arms or nuzzle into my shoulder and murmur, “Your skin is so soft.” How he made me feel like the prettiest girl in the world.

In the end, I was wrong about how he felt. He said sorry, too, for the touches and the words. Still, I couldn’t shake–can’t shake–the feeling that I had been stupid.

Since then, I’ve been scared of a certain kind of charming, aggressively heterosexual guy. Of a certain kind of boy with a pretty face who says pretty words. Of situations where I feel too much like a pretty girl in the presence of a flirting guy.

Boy!me, with my friend Devyn.

Because, as a pretty girl, I’m incredibly stupid. I forget words are words. I forget it’s all a hunt, a chase.

And, as a girl, I’m seen as a target.

At least, when I’m a handsome boy, I can be, to them, an equal at best, and invisible at worst. At least, when I flatten my chest and hide my hair and quirk my brow and out-swagger them with the rings in my ears and the bite of my lip…pretty boys with their pretty words won’t think of me as a pretty girl, won’t think to try their charm on me. I can avoid looking and feeling stupid. I can avoid mistaking charm for something real.

When the male model left our studio, I took off the beanie and threw my hair into space buns. I slicked on brighter lipstick, and traded my spiky chains for dainty earrings of moons and stars. In short, I turned into a girl again, and after I was done, I posted this photo.

The male model liked it. He still likes my photos sometimes. It’s always the ones where I’m my girl self, posing and preening and being pretty.

Each time he does, I throw my hair up and chisel my jaw with contour and run my hand through my hair the way I’ve watched Tom Felton, then Ed Westwick, then Park Jimin do. I post photos of this, my other self, and my friends leave heart react emojis and call me handsome and I feel…relief.

Because handsome is safe. Handsome means I’m out of reach. After all, those charming boys with their charming words don’t often start with, “Hello, handsome.”


P.S.

An acquaintance wrote to me that this sounded pretty heteronormative (and unhealthy) for someone he knew had feminist leanings.

What he says is true, and I’m aware (and saddened) of that fact. I wrote this blog as a means to pick apart why I always felt the need to “man up” around charming men, and why I shy away from flirtation and shoot down physical compliments from the like. When it comes to a certain breed of heterosexual [bleep]bois, after all, also being a boy generally renders you invisible.

That being said, I feel I should make things clear with a disclaimer. So, DISCLAIMER: This blog is a personal reflection of an unhealthy inner narrative. I by no means endorse the prevailing idea that masculinity means one is “safe” from predation, and femininity is not.

I recognize, in fact, that this narrative feeds into a rape culture wherein male victims are unable to come forward, due to the assumption that being male by default makes them sexual aggressors.

Also, I am 100% androgynously dressed, cisgender women are someone’s type, and that person may or may not have “predatory” intentions.

I hope that, by sharing the end results of the toxic mindset that makes masculinity as equivalent to hunter and femininity as equivalent to prey/prize, I am helping build safer spaces for everyone.

I Write a Personals Ad

Before I begin, a disclaimer: The following work is not a serious (nor, I believe, entirely accurate) rendering of a personals ad.  Instead, it has been based on the incredible (and incredibly geeky/nerdy/pretentious–you decide) ads on N+1 Personals, a now-defunct project that attempted to match “sad young literary people” (their words, not mine) with other sad young literary people, without resorting to the indignity that was (then) OKCupid or (now) Tinder.

I’ve actually wanted to write this for ages, but at nineteen I probably–scratch that, definitely–would have taken the exercise (and myself) far too seriously.  Now, all I hope is that you laugh with me as I laugh at me.  At the very least, you will all understand why I am still single.

(Nearly everything I’ve said is in jest, but maybe it’s worth noting that jokes are half-meant.)

Now that that’s been settled, here we go!

~*~

Erstwhile Nabokovian Nymphet Seeks Austen Hero (That You Probably Won’t Expect)

Me: Twenty-odd (well, technically, even) Type A millennial cliché. Inhabits a personality spectrum between Aubrey Plaza and Zooey Deschanel.  Too mainstream to be hipster; too pretentious to be mainstream. Fond of hashtags and self-deprecating humour. Reluctant romantic (but when I fall, I’m hopeless) attempting to escape her Taylor Swift-esque songwriting past (with mixed success).  Plays guitar (obviously) and ukulele (see millennial cliché, above).  Sings, loudly and often.

Boyish-bodied, girl-ish(?) face. Un peu ronde, et parle (un peu de) français.  Read “Lolita” at Lolita’s age. Does not pity H.H., but has loved literary (and lingual) in-jokes ever since.

In short: manic pixie dream girl. Minus the pixie. Minus the dream.

You: Twenty-older, (years: no less than one, no more than three). A cross between Henry Tilney and George (or “Alex,” if you prefer your Austen modern) Knightley.  Tall or tallish.  Far from brooding.  Likes long walks in the bookstore, music, and snarking.  Can tolerate, or daresay even enjoy, the more-than-occasional goofy two-fie.  Tea (or coffee) over tequila.  Barcino over Valkyrie.  Moderate pain tolerance (worry not, my tastes are far from–*shudder*–“rather singular.”).  Witty will save the world.  

Mature (whatever that means), but open to keeping company with a metaphorical “kid.”  Fancy prose style optional, but preferred (of course).  Thick-skinned.  Abundant sense of humor.  May possibly require the patience of a saint.  

I might have a thing for patrician noses, but that’s yet to be proven.

~*~

Any takers?  No?  Didn’t think so.  At least that’s one more off the blogging bucket list.  At any rate, if you were entertained, wade through more of the same (though arguably better-written) at N+1 Personals Tumblr archive, or check out the highlights reel here.  If you dare write your own, drop the link in my comments.  I solemnly swear to read them all, as long as they’re in good fun.

Finally, if you’re interested in know what I’m actually looking for regarding the whole dating/romance shebang, check out the Me and My Lists series.  Until next time, I remain, yours truly,

~aRoamingTsinay~

[Me and My Lists] Part 7: Day One

I’ve liked fifteen guys since the age of twelve.

No, seriously.  Count them.  I do.  I’ve liked fifteen boys: a daisy chain of unrequited loves, poems full of longing, awkward conversations, and tearful admissions, strung together with the wry romanticism of a John Green novel (complete with Vampire Weekend or One Republic soundtrack).  Fifteen initials that I recite like Arya Stark’s “prayer,” only without the murderous intent (most days, at least).  Fifteen hands I’ve imagined holding, pairs of arms I’ve imagined dancing in.

Basically, Fifteen stand-ins for the boys in the following scenes:

autumn-cold-couple-lake-Favim.com-980659 tumblr_mxosi33F1C1skn0r7o5_1280 11831-Cute-Couple tumblr_static_a_couple_by_dueto_variavel a3b1397105b5ed6efd17721f21e814ca asian-like.tumblr couple-cute-hot-kiss-Favim.com-1304072 54879-Mountain-Climbing-Couple tumblr_mgj6u1cWKQ1rlg43so1_500

Source: Google Images, using the search term “Tumblr Couple.”

This is what love looked like to “SSB”-me: an endless loop of photosets rendered in indie-romcom colors, where I took the place of the everyman heroine side-by-side with my manic pixie dream boy.  But, like those everyman heroes before me, the reality was nothing like my expectations, often looking more like this:

tomhansen1

and, eventually, this:
tomhansen2

finally ending with an I’m-fine-but-not-really state of bitter homeostasis.

tomhansen3

Frankly, this was the basis of my SoJ radio persona.

Eventually, I would edge back into rationality, enjoy a brief period of equilibrium.  But it would never last.  One day, someone would come along with the right smirk, or quirk of eyebrow, or nose, or jaw, or fingers-on-lips, hands-running-through-hair…

1

…and it’d start all over again.

After fifteen go-rounds, I’m painfully aware of this pattern.  In fact, I’m more than a little tired of it.  “Bitter homeostasis” has increasingly blurred into equilibrium.  It’s hard not to be cynical when the movie in your mind won’t go the way it’s supposed to: one moment you’ll be choreographing shiny-happy dance numbers and the next you’re belting out sad Paramore or Jessie Ware lyrics, the constant undercurrent of hope feeling less like butterflies and more like a migraine.  I know my “love life” is a running joke–in fact, my bandmates used it as a punchline during our photoshoot when they needed to laugh for the camera–but number fifteen was a whopper and now I’m not sure I find this funny anymore.  I’ve been going through the motions of being bitter, and snarky, and wry, and a little wounded–spouting hugot lines and whining over old pictures–but it’s all feeling more like playacting now.

Lately, I’ve been wanting something different for myself: a little less Tumblr and a little more terrestrial.  If I think hard enough, I can imagine the bare bones: the ghost of an image, the blueprint of a skyscraper.  In fact, a skyscraper is a good way to think about it: instead of the ephemera of celluloid, there’s a sense of permanence, of concrete and steel rebar, of the inevitable pull of gravity.  There are no dance numbers, no Instagram-filter colors.  I don’t hear Mumm-Ra in the background.

What I find myself wanting is something that just is–a workaday sort of love that maybe doesn’t have a song, doesn’t need a poem.  It’s the sort of love that leaves John Green on the shelf, that prompted Juliet to declare her feelings for Romeo

…too rash, too unadvised, too sudden,
Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be
Ere one can say “It lightens.”

I realized–or, if I’m honest, I’ve known for a while–that for the longest time the love I have wanted has been an imagined country as told by those photosets and GIFs and Spotify playlists.  It’s been the kind of love that needs finding, because it’s so elusive, because there’s little evidence it exists at all.  It’s the love you obsess over, the kind you fantasize about, precisely because it is a fantasy.

I’ve been so desperate to find a leading man that I’ve forgotten the truth about movies: they show things the way they look to be, instead of the way they are.  I’m tired of images, of scripting lines of dialogue, of referring to a mental checklist of attributes that somehow sum up to perfect.  Instead of finding the one being a blockbuster event or a flashmob, I’d rather it be as natural as a change of seasons–the slow, inevitable slipping of summer into autumn.  One day, I’ll look up to find the wind has changed, the leaves will have started to turn, and it will both surprise me and not surprise me.

I’d expect it.  Maybe I won’t expect him.  (Maybe there will be no him.)  What there will be, though, is a sense that things make sense.  It won’t be groundbreaking.  It will just be.

Sometimes, I still get to imagining.  I imagine laughing faces in a coffeeshop (it used to look like Starbucks Pearl, but lately due to my transplanting to Makati it’s looking a lot more like Staple and Perk), shoulders touching casually in a group photo, introductions at office parties: “This is my…”  I guess it’s just habit, or the fact that I used to write exclusively love stories: I can’t help but set a scene.  Except now, I know that’s all they are: possibilities versus things that need to happen.  I’m learning to stop reading shades of meaning in coincidences.  After all:

500daysofsummerbizarro

Or: just because he watches Doctor Who, liked a few Instagram photos, and called you pretty that one time, doesn’t mean you’re meant to be.

At the end of every crush, I tell myself that this one is the last.  The last one-sided fling.  The last pair of rose-colored glasses.  Number fifteen was a doozy, a dubious sort of “first” (not in that way, folks), a ‘life event’ in his own right.  Considering the way things played out, I don’t think I can be faulted for hoping for a combo-breaker.  And maybe he really will be the last one, or maybe it will take me a few more tries to drill this lesson into my head.  One thing’s for sure, though: I don’t want a love story anymore.

I just want love.  Plain as day, in whatever form it will take (after all, as one article put it, the happiest place in eternity will have no marriage or sex).  No more unrealistic, indie flick-expectations versus reality.

tom hansen knowing face

Just equilibrium.  Just homeostasis.  Just a day that, without anyone realizing it, turns out to be a sort of day one.

…or basically just a decrease in my tendency to be more than slightly delusional.  Whatever.  I’m obviously taking my sweet time ditching every single one of my “Lists,” but that’s all part of the process of this ‘growing up’ business anyway, or so I’m told.  Anyway, it’s been fun.  Hope you enjoy the GIFs, and if you saw the pattern…well, no stars for you because I’ve made things blatantly obvious, to be honest.  It isn’t the first time Tom Hansen has been my spirit animal, after all.

~aRoamingTsinay~

P.S.: Hope this makes up for no The Friday, Currently last week.  And, seeing as I’ll be coming back from Cebu on the day, there might not be any this week so I’ll see you in the next post…whenever that happens.  Until then

Dr_WhoGif9-vi

200_s

– aRT